Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Inconsistency: Israel withholds funds from the PA for paying terrorists but encourages other countries to donate

Israel will push for more international aid to the Palestinians at a conference of donor countries in Norway this week, Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej told The Times of Israel on Monday.

“During our meetings in the coming days, our message to donor countries will be to provide more aid to the Palestinians. The neglect over the past years has created a financial crisis that threatens not just the Palestinian Authority, but the region as a whole,” Frej said in a phone call.

Foreign assistance to the PA has plummeted over the past year. According to publicly available filings, Ramallah received $480 million in foreign budget aid between January and September 2019. Over the same period in 2021, it received just $32.75 million in budget support.
It adds:

Israel confiscated NIS 600 million from taxes it collects on Ramallah’s behalf  in July. Under a 2018 Israeli law, Israel regularly confiscates money from the revenues to penalize Ramallah for its policy of paying stipends to Palestinian security prisoners held in Israel, and the families of Palestinians killed during violent confrontations with Israeli forces — including those who committed terror attacks against Israelis.
These two parts of the Israeli policy are contradictory. What good is withholding tax revenues when Israel is also encouraging other countries to make up the PA's budget shortfall? 

Mahmoud Abbas has said, explicitly and multiple times, that the payments to terrorists and their families are his top priority and the most important part of the budget. “Even if we have only a penny left, we will give it to the martyrs, the prisoners and their families We view the prisoners and the martyrs as planets and stars in the skies of the Palestinian struggle, and they have priority in everything,” Abbas said.

Israel has an interest in the PA not collapsing. The PA has doubled down on saying that it will pay terrorists first before even its own employees. How can these be reconciled?

The answer comes, paradoxically, from the Palestinian Authority itself:
 In his remarks to the cabinet on Monday, [PA prime minister Mohammad] Shtayyeh said he would ask international donors to pressure Israel into ending the policy.
Israel must make clear at the conference that it supports funding the PA - but only if the donors ensure that their funds are spent transparently and not on terrorist payments. There must be a professional audit system in place to trace every euro. 

The international community is already leery of giving money to the Palestinians without strings, because of the PA's endemic corruption. Israel needs to tie its demands for transparency to that existing desire not to waste these funds. And the Europeans must pressure the PA to stop its pay-for-slay program.